We're less than a month out from United's first competitive game of 2016, which brings us to the next piece in our countdown series. Let's talk about the man who wears #30: Conor Doyle.
He's a somewhat divisive player on this roster. When I asked you guys a couple months ago whether you even wanted Doyle to return in 2016, 76% of you said yes, but there were those among you who felt that Doyle's contributions were not worth keeping him around. Part of what puts him on some of your "thanks but no thanks" lists is the question of where this kid should even play.
If he's a forward, he's not a forward who scores a lot of goals. Just two to his name in 2015. But with Jairo Arrieta a mere feisty memory now, the Black-and-Red are down at least one guy up top. To be fair, Fabian Espindola and Chris Rolfe are always going to be ahead of Doyle in the pecking order as long as they're healthy (or not dealing with red card suspensions—looking at you, Fabi). Alvaro Saborio is an option there, too, of course.
If he's a midfielder, he's looking at a big fight for playing time. Nick DeLeon, and now Lamar Neagle and Patrick Nyarko, are all likely choices before Doyle. Don't forget Miguel Aguilar, either. Doyle offers that Ben Olsen-approved "grit" and generally can be relied on as a hard worker, but as someone who's most often been called on to see out games, he may be falling further and further down the line as DCU bulks up its roster.
For what it's worth, and it may be worth very little, Doyle played more in midfield last year than at forward. Those were the needs of the team, though. 2016 is a new year with new players from which to choose, so it's completely possible that it's back to square one with Doyle as a utility player. Maybe that serves the team; whether it really serves Doyle is questionable.
It's unlikely that Doyle will ever reach especially new heights without significantly more playing time. More than that, it's unlikely he'll ever develop as a great forward or a great midfielder without substantial experience in one of those positions. He's not the type of ridiculous talent that can simply do both, always, and excel.
To a forward position, he brings neither tons of goals nor particular finesse. To a midfield position, he brings neither exceptional speed nor passing abilities. These sound like heavy critiques, but we know Doyle as our defensive forward—that's a criticism as much as a compliment.
Doyle is young and cheap, for now. Eventually he'll be neither. Could 2016 be a turning point year for him? We'll see.